Reckoning or Witch-Hunt?

Anybody who knows me is well aware that I call ’em the way I see them. I do not walk the line of political correctness which the social media mob seems to want to publicly shame everyone into believing is “the light and the way”. This is why I am gobsmacked at how far the pendulum has swung on the issue as it relates to so-called “inappropriate behaviour” in the workplace. Are we ready to allow due process to be thrown out entirely in the name of appeasing the pc vultures in social media and/or in an effort to protect a public brand and thus a company’s bottom line? If we have learned anything from recent events the answer sadly seems to be a resounding YES!

Regardless of what you believe about recently accused media figures Matt Lauer and Gregg Zaun you would be ignorant to assume that the “investigations” into both broadcasters’ “inappropriate behaviour” rose to the level of due process (yes, I know that due process is a term used in a court of law but given that we have wrongful dismissal guidelines I would argue that due process is not only a good idea for all companies but it is indeed a requirement when terminating any employee’s position).

The brass at NBC by their own admission became aware of the allegations against Lauer this past Monday evening. He was notified of his termination on Tuesday evening. Outside of the possibility that Lauer threw himself on his proverbial sword I question whether one day of investigation, which resulted in the firing of an employee with 20-plus years of service, rises to the level of “thorough” when it comes to an investigation into the alleged incident.

The Zaun case is similar in the swiftness with which Rogers terminated the former Blue Jays’ employment following the complaints. We do not currently know the number of complainants nor what is the substance of the accusations. The accusations were filed by the complainants “this week” and Zaun was gone by Wednesday. Rick Brace, head of Rogers Media only cited “inappropriate behaviour and comments” and noted that there were no allegations of physical or sexual assault. (full disclosure, I worked at Sportsnet and was part of the company for the first year of Zaun’s tenure. I never witnessed or overheard of any inappropriate behaviour by Zaun or any other Sportsnet employee in my over 12 years with the company. Given that I worked in the communications department I would have been privy to any employee who was being dismissed for inappropriate behaviour in the workplace or for any other reason.).

While there has been much debate about the Lauer and Zaun incidents we are still left scratching our heads because the employers in both cases have been less than transparent when it comes to the details in each case. Lauer appears on the surface to have had a history of the type of behaviour which led to his dismissal. He apologised publicly so it seems that his employer NBC is on solid ground with their decision to dismiss the former Today Show host.

However, the Zaun case is troubling in the lack of transparency from Rogers and Zaun’s silence in the wake of the allegations. Unlike the written apology given by Lauer, it seems given his unwillingness to speak to the media, that Zaun may be mounting a defence against what he believes to be a wrongful dismissal. Keep in mind that this dismissal will effectively end his career as a broadcaster. Given the current public sentiment on workplace harassment I cannot imagine any company taking a chance to put him in front of the camera even if the allegations are proven to be untrue or that the allegations do not rise to a level that would warrant a dismissal.

What is even more apparent is how the media has stumbled over each other to get in line to take shots at Zaun to characterise him as a misogynistic loud-mouth who got what he deserved. To see what passes as journalism in these cases is a little sad. An article written by Cassandra Szklarski in The Globe and Mail illustrates this point. For effect, Szklarski said in the article that after becoming an analyst with Sportsnet in 2011 Zaun “repeatedly crossed the line with comments both on the air and in social media.” Her evidence of him “crossing the line”? One poor judgement call by Zaun on Twitter after an encounter in a bar in Toronto (Zaun apologised for his ill-advised tweet) and one case where he had the audacity to criticise the actions of Blue Jays’ ace Marcus Stroman on the mound as “showboating”. Someone should tell Cassandra that an analyst’s job is to provide opinion and this is not evidence of “crossing the line”.

More troubling is the less publicised dismissal of A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor. The alleged facts of this case involve a single complaint and Keillor’s employer Minnesota Public Radio has admitted “based on what we currently know, there are no similar allegations involving other staff.”. The allegation? Keillor admits to placing his hand on the bare back of a female employee when trying to console her. “I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches,” he said. “She recoiled. I apologised.”

An isolated incident which could be at worst a minor transgression and at the least a slip of his hand and Keillor is sent packing. I really do not like the term slippery slope when it is used by partisan individuals and groups claiming some new government legislation will take us down the road to Stalinism but I do think the label is appropriate in this current climate of workplace harassment.

There is no denying that in the past that some women had to maneuver a system at work which was fraught with male-dominated stereotypes and behaviours that often resulted in a toxic environment for some women. However, are we willing to let the pendulum swing so far the other way so that men can now experience the fear and uncertainty of not knowing if a gesture, glance or comment could lead to them losing their job? This current road of correcting workplace behaviour is being labelled a “reckoning”. I believe for the Harvey Weinsteins that is exactly what it represents. However, I believe the Keillor incident, at least based on what we know, is moving this well overdue change in the workplace perilously close to the witch-hunt (another term I think is over and incorrectly used but applies here) phase rather than a reckoning. This seismic shift in how we treat alleged workplace harassment in my opinion represents the sterilisation of the workplace where men will now have to maneuver similar unfair workplace landmines as women had to in the past. That seems to be more about vengeance than justice.

OneDadWithaBlog

Youth sports – a fine line between lesson and obsession

Another game, another loss. My son’s hockey team is 15 games into the season and they have not tasted victory.

I know, sports is not all about winning but unless we flip our culture on its’ head, winning is still an important factor in relation to the fun quotient in youth sports. From a very early age in youth sports, despite some well-intentioned policies such as not keeping score, kids understand what the goal is in team sports. And that goal is to score more than the other team.

So back to my son’s hockey team and their miserable slump. How does a parent balance the primary importance of their child just having fun with the underlying desire to win? Let’s cut the crap so to speak. We all know (well at least those of us who have played sports know) that there is an undeniable connection between your level of enjoyment and whether you were successful. With this knowledge, as a parent how can we respect ourselves and our children by peddling the same old cliches such as “just as long as you are having fun” when your child is experiencing loss after loss?

My take is different and it may not be popular with some of the more kinder, gentler parent-types. While winning at all costs may not be healthy concept, “as long as you are having fun” is just as unhealthy mentally for children. Why can we not have a middle ground with regard to the importance of winning? Why can’t it be “I hope you are having fun – do you think it would be even more fun if you won?”

I believe the game is usually more fun when attached to success. The lesson is that your child should strive to win each and every time knowing full well that losing is still a possible outcome.

We focus so much on the importance of lessons learned when our children lose in sport and for the most part I agree with this focus. However, there is one thing that losing cannot teach our children. It cannot instill the feeling of joy and camaraderie they will experience when they win as a team. That feeling is exclusive to winning in team sports.

When I look back at my best memories from my days in competitive sports most are attached to a team success. Yes we learn lessons from losing but sometimes those lessons still taste sour. Winning usually always tastes sweet.

OneDadwithaBlog

Postscript: Drake’s team registered their first victory of the season on the weekend. Nothing could be more important than the win but the fact that Drake netted the game-winning goal late in the third period made it even sweeter for him. I hope the win is the first of many more for the team.

The blame game

Anyone who has gone through a marriage break-up may know about the unproductive exercise I simply call “the blame game” (real original, right?). I have engaged in this “game” over the past several years with my ex but I have vowed not to continue. It is a damaging game to all parties involved, including most importantly the children.

The problem is that when facing a party who is engaging in conduct which is about assigning blame you have to find a way to keep yourself above the fray and stick to the facts and hopefully get past the nastiness that may still be lingering (or as Chubbs Peterson said in Happy Gilmore, “go to your happy place”).

Rather than give you some deep philosophical diatribe on why staying away from the back-and-forth blaming is the best course of action I would like to give you some of my quick fixes to avoid joining your former partner “in the muck” so to speak:

  1. Leave the past where it belongs – in the past – this seems very logical but it is not always easy. Nobody enters into a marriage thinking “I know this is only short term”. When our expectations of marriage are not met we often store things in the vault about the other party and unlock them at the appropriate time, when we need to justify our position. Empty your marital vault and divest yourself of the contents. This will help you keep an eye on the two things that are most important – namely the present and the future.
  2. Blow off some steam – I am sure many of us get frustrated with the process when a marriage ends. The constant conflict can make you think “how did I ever marry this person”. Simply put when you feel like you have reached the end of your proverbial rope just find a physical outlet. Hit a punching bag, go for a run, it could be anything but doing this will make you more grounded when you have to deal with the pressures of divorce.
  3. Find a sounding board – I have two (thanks to my brother Dave and to my best friend Clayton for listening to me vent). It is cathartic to have an outlet aside from that punching bag or home gym which actually talks back and more importantly hears you. I would guess most people are looking for validation but having a fresh perspective from someone you respect may help you see the bigger picture.

Again, at the end of the day, looking forward and not backward will help you reach a better place. Remember, your kids want two happy, well-adjusted parents. Do your best to hold up your end of the bargain and you and your children will be better off in the long run.

Controlling that A-hole inside of my head

We often hear about people who are “unemployed” but we never believe it will happen to us until it does. I have been faced with that dilemma twice in the past five years and I can tell you it is not a fun experience. You begin to question your self-worth and it truly is a shot to your ego. The truth is that you start to look back on all the things you could have done different to have avoided the situation. Could I have worked more hours? Could I have gone to that optional after hours work function instead of my son’s hockey game? These are just some of the questions many people who found themselves axed as part of a corporate downsizing beyond their control begin to ask. Most of these questions probably relate to a discussion of work-life balance or as I like to say work over life. The truth is that when it comes down to it I believe in the old saying that any (sane) person who is on their deathbed ever says “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.

I am currently “out of work” and as much as you try and stay positive and busy and productive and… the demons of self-doubt seem to always creep in and invade your brain. However, as Dan Harris so eloquently put it in his book “10 % Happier”, the voice in my head is an “asshole”. That voice is usually tied to self-doubt and reflecting upon things that have not happened or you have no control over (or as I put it to my son when he shows angst over something, the “what ifs?” in life).

The “what ifs?” can paralyze you if you let them – especially when life deals you a tough hand like the death of a family member, the break-up of a marriage or the loss of a job. I have experienced all of the aforementioned (This does not make me special in any way).   I can tell you that I often have heard from well-meaning family and friends that “it could be worse”. This centres around the concept that I should be thankful that I am not living in a war-torn country or maybe grieving the loss of my family in a house fire. That to me is taking someone else’s pain and suffering and using it to make me feel better about my own (not unique) situation. This strikes me as just a little perverse (but to each their own I guess).

No, for me, the best way to make you feel better about your situation is to shut that a-hole up in your head. He/she is only going to bring you down by making you look at the “possible” bad outcomes (just an observation but have you ever noticed the voice seems to be louder at challenging times?). Shutting down that voice is the key to making it through tough times.

Even further, for most of us, turning off Mr. Negative may also be the answer to not letting everyday annoyances get the better of some of us. Come on, admit it, many of you have given into that voice at times when the situation is at best a one or two on a scale of ten on the annoyance meter. Maybe it is when you were in the line at the grocery store behind that person who just can’t seem to find their credit card or cash. Or maybe on the highway when that inconsiderate twit who is talking on their cell phone cuts you off. The voice sometimes just gets the best of us and you shoot the person the finger or shake a fist in their direction. What does this accomplish? Nothing (other than satisfying that asshole in your heads’ need to be heard).

The next time the voice chimes in on issues be they big or small just repeat after me “shut up asshole – I am better than you”.

 

mongers

 

 

“The twitch” – an update

Well it has been approximately three days since I made the commitment to stop being a slave to the time-sucking device known as a smartphone. I was true to my promise and the only two times I picked up my phone other than to answer a call was to confirm a practice time for my son’s hockey and to check skate times with one of his trainers. No updating Facebook. No answering texts. No surfing aimlessly for the latest on the election in the USA.

Since Friday I have noticed the following:

  1. The world does not stop spinning when I do not reach for my phone involuntarily at frequent intervals during the day.
  2. I actually get way more accomplished due to the extra time I have thanks to the change in my habits related to smartphone use.
  3. I am way more present and aware of my surroundings. I found just sitting and watching is far more satisfying than having my face buried in my phone. I actually watched almost all of my son’s practices and enjoyed doing so.
  4. I don’t miss the interaction (funny how we use the word interaction to describe how we “interact” with an inanimate object. I remember a time when the word “interact” was used to refer to how we related with people and not things) with my phone. It no longer has this hold on me and I feel richer for this fact.
  5. I felt lighter mentally (no jokes please. I am still a mental heavyweight. At least that is what I keep telling myself) and I found myself cracking jokes far more.

If you want to read more on this “addiction” which is taking over many people’s lives check out this article Please. It’s Just a Phone.Read These Crazy Smartphone Addiction Stats. The image below illustrates just one of the stats from the article.

always on bofa poll

Three days down and another 57 to go.

OneDadWithaBlog

Getting rid of “The Twitch”

 

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Nomophobia – is a proposed name for the phobia (intense, irrational fear) of being out of mobile phone contact

“The twitch” which Joshua Burns Millburn refers to in his book Everything That Remains is not any relation to “the itch” (they both cause anxiety I guess but the latter can be fixed with… well you know!). The twitch is a self-absorbing act that occurs for most of us probably dozens if not hundreds of times per day. What is this affliction which consumes our being and causes us to panic at times when you can’t satisfy that twitch?

 

It is an involuntary act caused by our smart phones. The phone itself maybe “smart”- with its latest technology and upgrades each time a newer version comes out on the market – but the phone itself renders the user “dumb” in most cases.

Why do I say that this supposed miracle of the modern world reduces us to drooling fools? Because just like Pavlov’s dog every time our phones beep, ring or produce the latest catchy hip-hop, country, rock, classical, etc. ringtone many of us begin to salivate. The only thing missing is the user sitting up on their hind legs to beg for a treat (note to Apple executives if you introduce this feature on I-Phone 69 I want a cut if I am still around!). Think about it. When you reached for your phone recently and it was not there what was your reaction? I am guessing the emotional range for most runs the spectrum from mild concern to sheer unfettered panic.

 

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The average college student spends nine hours a day using their cell phone

 

I did a little experiment today where I counted the number of times I reached for my phone without even having a reason to do so. I stopped counting at five times in just over one hour. The key is I made a conscious decision to notice this behavior and stop it each time.

If I were to extrapolate the math I would be at almost 100 times when I involuntarily reached for this time-sucking device each and every day. Even if I took an average of one minute (I would argue a very conservative estimate) each time I picked up the device I would be wasting over 90 minutes each day or over 10 hours each week. So many of us complain that they never have enough hours in the day for the important things in life but we are sacrificing precious time worshipping at the altar of one form of technology or another. The smart phone may not even be the biggest technology offender in terms of a “time-waster” in the average person’s life.

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This type of behavior leads us to be cut-off from the most important things in our life our surroundings, our experiences and our relationships. After all, the age-old saying does not go, “stop and small the micro-chips or the 32 gig processor”.

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With this in mind I am going to begin a 60-day challenge. This challenge will have very specific rules but the focus will be to stop treating my smart phone as an appendage (if I pictured it this way it would probably look like the Alien from the movie of the same name. A parasite which has attached to the host and refuses to let go. The difference is that Sigourney Weaver’s character Ridley will not be rushing in to save me. Too bad.) and use it more in the manner in which I believe it was intended – as a tool.

Here are the rules:

  1. It is a phone damn it – not a toy! – yes that is right. I will use my device only as a phone for 60 days. No more aimlessly surfing the web. No checking facebook conversations. No texting with whomever sends me a message because they may be bored. No nothing! Well except if it rings and then I will answer it. Old school baby!
  2. I will get to you when I get to you – I know in this world we believe everyone should respond with lightning fast immediacy. Well guess what? I lived before smart phones and I still had the time to catch up with people when I had the chance – usually after I was enjoying my surroundings, experiences and relationships. Maybe I will miss out on some stuff – maybe not. I will set aside time each evening to respond to all emails. If you text me… see rule #1.
  3. Rules are made to be broken – I will allow myself some latitude on the above rules under the following conditions:
    1. Family comes first – if my kids text me I will respond. Rules don’t always apply to family and given that I miss my kids every minute they are away from me I think this one is only fair. I will do my best to encourage them to call dad because after all there is nothing sweeter for a parent than the sound of your child’s voice. Words on a screen are a pale imitation.
    2. I think I went the wrong way – due to my terrible sense of direction I am going to allow myself the luxury of using my smart phone’s GPS but if it sends me into the lake like that lady in Tobermory I will start buying maps!
    3. Work phone for work only – I do travel occasionally and sometimes I am required to keep up with my emails so that is another exception I will allow myself.
    4. My blog my rules – I will also allow myself to post and update using my phone but not check my site statistics. That can wait until I get home and have access to a real computer not a 6 inch wannabe one.
    5. Listen to the music – I can use my device for listening to music when working out only.

OK, now that we have set the ground rules all I can say is let’s jump in the deep end of the pool! The water’s warm but remember no cell phones allowed. Some of us are trying to swim not just take a picture of the pool.

Wish me luck!

OneDadWithaBlog

Letting Go – Day 4 coming soon!

Just in case anyone out there thinks I have given up the ghost on my challenge – think again.  I have still been working through simplifying my life by getting rid of “stuff” that does not add value to my life. I will admit to dealing with multiple drama episodes in my life which has kept me from sitting down and hammering out any updates but I promise, one is coming soon. 

Since my last post, I have tackled my medicine cabinet which was a bit of a jungle. I am also going through my kitchen and downsizing.

In the meantime I am reading up on Project 333. I think I can do this and will go through the process in the next couple of weeks. If you want to know more about Project 333 and think you might have what it takes click on the link.

Also, I just received my reading material for the next month (see below). These guys are my inspiration!!

I will leave you with these words of wisdom – “don’t let your possessions possess you”.

OndDadWithaBlog

Letting Go – Day 3

The third day of my challenge to simplify my life by taking a minimalist approach to what I consume was a little less involved than Day 2. This doesn’t mean my day was any less involved. 

  1. 10 am – Pick the kids up at their mom’s place 
  2. 10:30 am – stop for breakfast when I am informed on the way home by Drake and Daniela that mom did not feed them
  3. 10:45 am. – deal with a difficult tenant when I arrive home (the less than landlord-friendly Ontario rental system will be a blog subject for another day), 
  4. 11 am – get ready for a long day ahead
  5. 11:20 am – leave for the rink to get Drake to an exhibition hockey game in Pickering
  6. 11:55 am – drive to local Dollar Store to pick up items for a work event later that day
  7. 12:10 pm – arrive back at the rink, get Daniela set up with popcorn and a mobile device to keep her occupied while Drake’s game is on
  8. 12:50 pm – join Drake’s team as I will be on the bench helping 
  9. 1 – 2:15 pm – help on the bench as Drake’s team gets a little lesson from a much better team
  10. 2:30 – 3:30 pm – drive from Pickering to Molson Canadian Amphitheatre for work event. The kids are in tow as Daniela is meeting a friend to attend the concert
  11. 3:30 – 5 pm – help set up our VIP area before doors open
  12. 5 – 9:30 pm – help host the VIP area for our event
  13. 9:30 – 10:15 pm – drive home with Drake
  14. 11 – 11:30 pm – pick up Daniela from friend’s place (they are exhausted but they had fun!)
  15. 11:30 pm – 12 am – get kids ready for bed

Part of the reason I posted this was because I bristle at the commonly held belief which permeates media, the public and indeed our government through our Family Court system that many dads are not often heavily involved in the lives of their children. We often hear about “Super moms” balancing life and work but when have you seen a nod in the media to the “Super dads”? If I sound as if I think that dads are marginalized by society in many ways while mothers take up the lion’s share of the oxygen when it comes to parenting. Bingo!!!

Given this schedule I leaned on Daniela to keep the ball rolling on my month long challenge of Letting Go. She did a fabulous job of cleaning out unwanted, unworn and/or too small clothing items all to be donated to charity. Photos of her basket of items plus one of some more finds in the back of my closet which will be finding a new home are below.

Bring on Day 4!!

OneDadWithaBlog

Letting Go – Day 2

It was a very productive day. Have you ever noticed when you get rolling you forget about the necessities of life – like eating? That is how my second day of “letting go” was like. By the time I realized I was hungry it was almost 4 pm! The souvlaki pita which was my first eats of the day could not have tasted better!

Day 2 of my challenge started with two hours of cleaning and purging. I felt like a minimalist bulemic as I went through items which had me saying on many occasions “I had no idea I still had that”.

After piling up my forgotten and neglected treasures (see some shots below of what was on the chopping block) it was off  to Once Upon a Child to drop off a rarely used doll house. The $30 I received seemed a little low but my haggling dna was on the backburner pushed aside by the purging mode of my new minimalist attidude. The dough came in handy to pay for the aforementioned pita.

Next up was a trip to Deja Vu Disc to sell off some dvds. No dice! Some little old lady had just dropped off eight (yes, eight!) garbage bags of dvds before me and the staff said they could not process anymore today. Crap!

After that minor setback I was off to Long & McQuade to sell a guitar which probably was used less by me than the just sold dollhouse had been used by my daughter in the past year. Pay dirt this time! I walked out with $105 in my pocket (well, actually deposited directly into my account via interac).

At this point I had worked myself from midtown to the east end of Scarborough in my three stops. However because of my “Heisman” (an inside joke with some old friends at Gord’s Place) at the dvd place I still had a box of unused old movies. Wait! Maybe there was another store outside of Toronto where I could unload these classics. A quick google search and a call to say I was coming with a box of hollywood treasures and I was on my way to Deja Vu Discs in Ajax. After the sales guy played his version of “got ’em – need ’em” with my dvds he cashed me out to the tune of $38.50. Wow! This minimalism thing was proving profitable!

OK, time to unload about 50 books and the rest of those dvds (after a quick stop for that chicken souvlaki pita of course!). Next stop – close to my hood – Queen Street East in The Beach for a visit to Re-Read, a used bookstore. After finding out that they have a “preferred list of authors” and will not buy books from authors not on the list I am not surprised. It is The Beach after all, an area of Toronto which not long ago debated whether it should be called “The Beach” or “The Beaches” (for the record I fell on the “who cares” side of the debate). The store will however take my books as a “donation”. Maybe some of the unwashed masses who follow sports will recognize authors like Mitch Albom, Ron Maclean or Don Cherry whose books are part of my “donation”. Maybe I will go back next week to see how much my “donated” books are fetching. 

But I digress.It is 5 pm and I still have some board games and those unwanted dvds to unload from my van. Last stop Value Village. No pretense. No “we don’t take those.” The employee at the back happily takes the last of my bounty and even helps me bring them in to the loading area 

Two hours of cleaning and purging at home followed by six stops over four hours to unburden myself of items some of which had been collecting dust for years and I am back home. Tired but satisfied that I achieved a small step in my challenge.

Now, I will say that I did not go all ninja minimalist and gas everything. I saved several books including two of my favourites, both for different reasons, below. 

On to Day 3!

Letting Go – Day 1

I have been inspired to take action and become more aware of what I consume in my daily life. When we talk about “consumption” as a society we often think of what we put in our body. After I discovered The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – I now understand that consumption relates to everything we purchase. Consumerism in North America has spun out of control. At least in my corner of the world I am going to try and stop the cycle. 

With this goal in mind I am going to take a 30-day challenge which will be two-fold:

  1. Remove at least one item per day from my own personal stash (given that Millburn and Nicodemus say there is evidence to suggest that the average household contains over 300,000 items I think I can spare 30 items in a month, give or take)
  2. Don’t purchase ANYTHING new that does not add value to my life (this will probably be the more challenging part).

So my journey begins. Below is an image of three items I dug out of the back of my closet which will be off to find a new home via a clothing donation service. Watch each day as I continue to free myself of stuff. Wish me luck!